NORTH Melbourne's All-Australian midfielder Shaun Higgins spent much of the past summer training for a positional switch to half-back.

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Coach Rhyce Shaw was entering his first full season in charge and wanted to utilise Higgins' sublime kicking skills coming out of defence, as part of his ambition to launch a finals assault.

The idea was to instead partner gun onballer Ben Cunnington with Jy Simpkin, Jed Anderson, Trent Dumont, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Tarryn Thomas in the centre.

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Shaw's well-laid plans had a few setbacks along the way – but at least Higgins was prepared for change, because he's had plenty of that.

Davies-Uniacke (groin) was ruled out for several months on season eve, while Cunnington (back-related issues) has played only two-and-a-bit matches all year.

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Thomas (ankle) hasn't appeared since round six, either.

North's form dramatically fell away, too, starting with a six-match losing slide that spoiled a bright 2-0 start and initiated a greater shift to the future.

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Higgins was part of the Roos' first-choice centre-bounce combination for most of the opening four rounds, alongside Cunnington, Simpkin and Anderson.

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His job began evolving in round five, when Shaw successfully redeployed defender Luke McDonald as a tagger on Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli.

McDonald continued that role against Essendon and Richmond in the ensuing fortnight.

As a result, Higgins started at half-forward against the Dogs, with Shaw saying post-match that the 32-year-old was versatile enough to be dangerous almost anywhere.

However, the early returns weren't to the dual Syd Barker medallist's usual lofty standards, with him winning only 14 disposals that night and 15 in the clash with the Bombers.

Shaw was unperturbed and unwavering. Just once since, against Carlton in round eight, has Higgins recorded more than seven centre attendances.

Shaun Higgins with his All-Australian jacket at the Palais Theatre in 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

His positional odyssey includes stints down back, up forward and in the centre – and he's now settled on the wing, where he's racked up 51 possessions in his past two games.

Higgins didn't attend a single centre bounce in either match.

"I've been really proud of the way he's just taken to each role we've given him," Shaw said.

"Hopefully, he can find a home there on the wing, because he's done a great job and he looks really dangerous out there, so we'll see how that looks for the rest of the year.

"We're trying to find the best possible mix for our team and where we can do the most damage with specific players."

They're telling words from Shaw on Higgins, given Jared Polec, Jasper Pittard and Aaron Hall find themselves out of the side for, in the coach's words, not playing team-first football.

The spin-off is Anderson and Dumont – after starting the season in his customary wing role – are thriving, especially in recent weeks, while Davies-Uniacke, Cam Zurhaar and Bailey Scott are also getting more looks in the middle.

More change appears to be on the horizon at Arden St, and accepting that seems a key criterion in sticking around.

Shaun Higgins by the numbers in 2020

Statistic

R1-4,8

R5-7

R9-12

Centre attendances

15

6.0

0.8

Disposals

21.8

21.7

22.3

Effective disposals

15.8

16.3

17.5

Long kicks

5.4

5.3

7.0

Groundball-gets

5.8

4.7

2.8

Uncontested possessions

13.8

15.0

17.5

Marks

1.6

3.3

4.8

Clearances

3.6

2.0

0.5

Inside 50s

2.4

2.7

3.3

Rebound 50s

2.2

2.3

3.0

Score involvements

3.6

3.3

3.8

Metres gained

316.4

340.1

442.0

Tackles

4.2

2.7

2.0